Finally, Madrid! We enjoyed our day trips to Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, but had the awesome pleasure of coming back to Madrid each evening. Most of those nights, I left my camera in the room and we just walked around the plazas, enjoying the city.
People asked if I felt safe or worried about traveling internationally. Honestly? Not once. I felt safest in Madrid, but we never felt unsafe in Portugal or Italy, at all. I mean, one must be smart and always aware of the surroundings, but we discovered every person we encountered to be helpful, kind and personable. Well, except for the cabbie in Lisbon who made us fear for our lives. There’s always one.
We slept in on this beautiful Sunday morning because nothing gets going in Madrid until 10am. I mean, it’s like they stay up until the wee hours or something. Ha! Our first stop was the Royal Palace.
The royal family no longer lives here (what a shame!), but lucky for us that we got to see it. They didn’t allow photos in most of the palace, but you know me. Rule. Breaker. Hey, I didn’t use my flash. And good thing I watched all those episodes of “Downton Abbey” because I knew what all the rooms were used for without reading the visitor’s guide. Just call me Lady Kathryn.
It was largely desolate this day (hooray!) so we really had a chance to take our time walking through the palace. We walked across the plaza to the Madrid Almudena Cathedral for noon Mass and sat right next to a couple from Pennsylvania. How is it that Amerians can spot one another a mile away? There are many things I love about my Catholic faith, but Mass in another country ranks right up there. I may not have known what the priest preached in his homily, but the entire Mass we knew exactly what was happening. What a gift of home that was. The cantors had incredible voices and I found myself deep in prayer, thanking God for this incredible experience. It’s difficult to put into eloquent words just how much my time with Scott meant for our marriage and for me, personally. Sometimes, when the gift is so big, it takes a while to unpack all that gratitude and all those graces.
We stopped back by the Mercado for a quick lunch before making our way to the Prado (!!!!). This was the place I most wanted to see. Give me all the El Greco’s. Of course, while we were gawking at all those, along comes a mother-daughter from Wichita Falls, Texas. The amount of friends we had in common was staggering. My ears can detect a north Texas accent anywhere.
It was such a beautiful afternoon of exploring and appreciating fine art. I never would’ve pegged myself as an art lover. But, when one sees the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and the Prado, you get a little spoiled for the good stuff. Just before we left, I squeezed Scott’s hand and leaned my head against the door frame to admire El Greco’s “Annunciation.”
Man, that is some beautiful stuff.
We enjoyed a little bit of Plaza Mayor and the Caixa Forum on our way to the museums. I was blown away by the forum with that entire building side of greenery. That’s where we originally planned to take photos with Flytographer, but ended up at the Royal Palace instead. Pretty much winners, both of them.
We hoofed it over to the Reina Sofia for modern art and Pablo Picasso. You know, I appreciate the modern twist, but I do not love it like I adore impressionist and renaissance paintings. We skipped through here pretty quickly and then hopped a metro to the bullfight arena, but not before getting a quick wifi fix at Starbucks where we ran into the Oklahoma Thunder basketball coaches. Guess you never know who you’ll see! I couldn’t convince Scott to take a picture. Stinker.
After we arrived at the Plaza de Toros, there was a brief moment we considered staying for the evening bullfight. But, we had made plans with our photographer and his girlfriend for tapas and beers and that won us over. Definitely the right choice.
After a quick pack of our bags for the next day’s flight to Portugal, we changed clothes and made our way to dinner. Only a small hiccup with the metro (closed line), but we figured it out.
Y’ALL – yes, that needed all caps – our tapas defied description. Hands down, our best eats in Spain. Nothing like traipsing on the back streets with a couple of locals who lead you to the coolest places to eat. We laughed, so hard, and talked and got along so great. Never mind that Scott and I were a good 15 years older than the two of them. There is not enough thanks to go around for a spectacular last night in Madrid.
I wanted to cry when we left the next morning. Spain, you were SO good to us! Scott and I have a new favorite city. Tomorrow we score a cool ride, meet the sweetest nun and have the scariest ride of our life. Portugal, we hope you’re ready for us!